It seems that everyone on the face of the earth has read William P. Young’s book The Shack and formulated an opinion about it. Most people love it, but there are a few–a vocal few–who detest it, who have gone through the book with a fine-tooth comb and found Young guilty of every form of heresy imaginable to man.
So why isn’t C. S. Lewis getting the same treatment?
Lewis is widely hailed as the theological poster child (one of them, at any rate) of evangelical Protestant-dom. But there are many things in Lewis’s writings and life which are at variance with traditional evangelical belief, and every constituency within evangelical Protestant-dom will find at least one thing to take offense at. For starters: Lewis was an Anglican. He believed in Purgatory and infant baptism. He did not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. He drank. (Wouldn’t the Baptists have a cow over that? Why aren’t they?) He doesn’t get into all the theological nits that we evangelicals love to pick, such as the atonement and the Sacraments; instead he takes a view which is much closer to the “mere Christianity” that he advocates in his work. His view of sanctification places little emphasis on the traditional Protestant distinctives of justification by faith, substitutionary atonement, imputation of the righteousness of Christ, etc. Instead he speaks of our being transformed, becoming like Christ, “putting on” Christ as it were, which we will see in the upcoming chapters of Mere Christianity. This emphasis has more in common with the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox view of spiritual formation than with anything in evangelical Protestant-dom.
And yet, you don’t see anyone critiquing Lewis’s view of the Trinity which we just explored in the last couple of chapters of Mere Christianity the way that people have picked apart Young’s view of the Trinity. You don’t see anyone critiquing Lewis’s depiction of the afterlife in The Great Divorce. You don’t see anyone critiquing Lewis’s depiction of Aslan as the Christ figure in the Narnia stories. So it’s OK for Lewis to depict God as a lion, but not for Young to depict God as an African-American woman, a Middle Eastern man, and an Asian woman?
I think this is nothing more than the sort of thing that kids do on the playground at recess. It’s OK for Lewis to play ball with us, because he’s on our team. We’ll just overlook all the differences between him and us, because he’s on our team. But Young? Who the hell is he? Who the hell is he to think that he can come barging in here and play with us? Who the hell is he to think that he can write a story depicting how the members of the Trinity relate to each other and how God meets us in our time of need, and not be completely and totally torn apart by us?
Now don’t get me wrong here. I believe that Lewis’s work is of great value and I would heartily recommend it to anyone. But why do we have to have this double standard where Lewis gets a pass and Young gets thrown to the wolves?